« PredošláPokračovať »
congenial to the Roman mind; but the Stoic creed was the creed of the nobler spirits of the imperial time. Excluded from public life, or, at all events, from the satisfactory exercise of public functions, the elect few took refuge in Stoic philosophy.*
The object of Stoicism is by means of virtue and knowledge to make men independent of all without them, and happy in that independence. It is a pantheism : God revealed in every thing; God's law recognized in every thing; God the substance from which every thing proceeds, to which every thing returns; the Original Fire, from which every thing is born again. God is the allpervasive Spirit, Fate, Providence. Obedience to his eternal laws constitutes virtue and happiness. Good and evil are to be measured by this standard. All that brings us toward this is Good; all that carries us away from it is Evil. Every thing else is indifferent.
In Grace or out of Grace, says the Christian; or, as Calvin expresses it in his nervous language, Qui Christum dimidium habere vult, totum perdit. In Virtue or out of Virtue, says the Stoic. There is nothing between. The wise are perfectly wise; the foolish are totally foolish. “There is not a half-ounce of rectitude in the fool.' The vicious man is as mad as Orestes-nay, madder.
The difference between human beings is slight. Alkibiades, the high-born and the handsome, is no better than shriveled old Baukis, who makes her livelihood by selling greens. All external distinctions sink into utter insignificance by the side of this great contrast of knowledge and ignorance into which virtue and vice are resolved.
All humanity is one people; all the world one state; * In this section of the Introduction I follow Zeller's Essay on Marcus Aurelius (Vorträge u. Abhandlungen) so closely that some special acknowledgment seems to be necessary.
its ruler the Deity; its constitution the eternal law of the universe. The more unconditionally a man submits to the guidance of this law, the more exclusively he seeks his happiness in virtue, the more independent he will be of all without him, the more contented in himself, and yet the readier to enter into communion with others, and to do his duty to the whole of which he is a part.
But it is to be observed that the Stoicism of Persius, like the Stoicism of Marcus Antoninus, was of a softer, milder, more religious character than that of Zeno and Chrysippus; and when the Stoic discourses on the nothingness of all earthly things, the ills of life, man's moral weakness, and his need of help, we hear language that reminds us now of the epistles of the New Testament, now of the doctrines of Buddha. The philosopher,' says Zeller, 'is a physician for the soul, a priest and servant of the Deity among men, and this he shows by the most unlimited, devoted, unreserved philanthropy. And not only so, but the Stoic does not disdain to make life brighter in the social circle; and the Sixth Satire of our author, which Nisard considers to be a youthful escapade of the poet-qui s'évertue comme un écolier qui sort de classeis no less truly Stoic than the high-strung Third.
In speaking of this subject it is difficult to keep from using the word religion, for the emotional element, which is so characteristic of religion, is not wanting in a system which is the popular synonym for suppression of emotion. This is the thesis which M. Martha has brought out into clear relief, and illumined by many apposite examples—a thesis which will not be strange to those who have studied with any care the social aspects of the later life of antiquity. Under the empire morality was more than morality-it was a religion; and all the formulae of certain phases of Christian ascetics may be applied to the ethical side of Stoic philosophy. It is difficult to approach the subject without seeming irreverence; but the faith of the Christian must be far from robust who can shrink from a parallel that goes no farther than the machinery-that does not involve the motive power. It is not the aim of this study to determine whether this parallelism is to be recognized as a praeparatio Evangelica, or as the like result of similar forces at work in different systems of thought and belief. It is enough to present the parallelism, to excuse the phraseology.
Our ancestors, at all events, were not afraid to recognize natural Christians’in such men as Socrates, in such youths as Persius. Why, even Seneca figured for a long time as St. Seneca; and Jeremy Taylor was following old example when he cited the Stoic as well as the Christian code. It is only one step from the recognition of this spiritual kindred to the recognition of the practical methods of spiritual work as anticipated in the life of antiquity-practical methods which for our purposes are even better described by an unbeliever like Lucian than by a believer like Marcus Antoninus. In that age of transition we find father confessors, private chaplains, mendicant friars, missions, revivals, conversions, ecstasies—all showing the deep needs of the human heart, which refused to be satisfied with the outworn gods of the Pantheon, and, in ignorance of the divine Person, who alone can answer a personal love, sought solace in the mechanism of morality. In characterizing Cornutus, I have already borrowed a phrase from M. Martha, and called him, as M. Martha calls Seneca, a spiritual director; and I have already ventured to call Persius a sensational preacher. His stock of philosophy or theology is not as large as some commentators suppose; and all the elaborate attempts to show by the satires that Persius was a thoroughly trained and consistent Stoic have failed. The most elementary knowledge of Stoic ethics is sufficient for the comprehension of Persius. Whatever else he knew he kept back for practical considerations. He sticks to the marrow of morality, and reiterates the cardinal doctrines of Stoicism with the vehemence of a Poundtext. This vehemence, this enthusiasm, may be explained by his youth, his Etruscan blood, his profession as a moral reformer. A critic with M. Taine's resources might account for it by the climate of Volaterrae; but, however it may be accounted for, certain it is that he himself is much impressed with the profundity of the doctrines which he professes; that he warms and glows as he imparts to his auditors the great secret that they are not free because they are slaves to vice; that a man who does not understand his relations to his Maker can not move a finger without sinning; that in the flesh there is no good thing; and that the anguish of a tortured conscience is the worst of hells. But the difficulties of Persius are not due to recondite Stoic thought, and can not be cleared up by reference to Stoic philosophy. The trouble lies in the slangy expressions, the lack of organic development, the restless zeal to force his message home to the heart of every hearer, and the consequent shifting of the personages of his dialogue to suit the cases as they rose before his mind.
Persius, then, was a preacher of Stoicism-Stoicism, at once the philosophy and the religion of a time when serious and noble natures had no city of refuge except in their inmost selves, when the only possible activity seemed to be submission to the inevitable. The hydrostatic pressure of the imperial time forced all the better elements into this mould; and in so far Persius bears the stamp of his period, and the very absence of political and personal allusions shows how imperfect life must have been. But one school of commentators, headed by Casaubon, and represented to-day in Germany by Lehmann, in England by Pretor, see in Persius much more than a disciple of the Stoa; and the satires of our author-especially the First and Fourth-are supposed to be full of more or less oblique references to Nero's person, his habits, bis literary pretensions, his aristocratic birth. At one time it seemed as if this thesis, which was suggested by the scholiast, had been abandoned, but the field for historical ingenuity is too tempting; and one of the vaguest of all the satires, the Fifth, has been discovered by Lehmann to be full of the most stinging allusions to Nero. It is not enough to grant to this school that Nero, as the type of his age, may have been present to the mind of the author. They scornfully reject this concession, and resort to all manner of legerdemain in order to explain away the impossibilities of such an attack and the improbabilities of its execution. With such scope as these scholars allow themselves we may find parallels every where, and covert assaults may be detected in the most innocent literary performances. But it would not answer the purpose this Introduction to enter into an elaborate discussion of this question, which seems to be destined to an uncomfortable resurrection as often as it is laid. Every plausible coincidence has been mentioned in the Notes, and it will be sufficient for ingenuous youth to know the opinions of distinguished scholars on the subject.
If this essay had not been prolonged beyond the limit proposed, it might be well to give some account of the grammatical and rhetorical peculiarities of the style of Persius; but the grammar of Persius will present few difficulties to those who are at all familiar with the poetic syntax of the Latin language; and enough has been